by

Phalanx

A wall of wood and steel stands, the final bulwark against the incoming horde. Shields forward, spears waiting for their opportunity to draw blood. One shield in the wall starts quaking. Unable to control his shaking, it falls to the ground. The young man lets out a small shriek as those around him bark at him to pick it up before the barbarians come into sight. Shaking still continuing, he reaches to the ground to pick up his wood and steel shield. His shame creates a blank mask around his face, and he steels himself so he shall not be ashamed again. The grizzled soldier to his left stabs his spear into the muddy earth, and puts his hand onto the boys shoulder. Perhaps he whispers words of encouragement, or possibly a threat to stop him from deserting. Either way, this causes the boys quaking to cease, and now the line is ready for what will be their final battle.

Their position near the abandoned stone walls kept them in a funnel. They can’t be flanked, but they don’t have much maneuverability.  A dirty man, armed with a single short blade emerges from the glade in front of the roman soldiers. The wall digs into the dirt, bracing for what was about to come. The man raises his sword into the air and lets out an animalistic roar, and it signals the savages behind them to charge. They appear from the darkness that hid them, numbering in the hundreds, maybe even thousands. The small group of romans, numbering a single hundred, recoils almost imperceptibly. Despite having  knowledge that they would be outnumbered, they never imagined a force of this size. The orders of the Centurion among them brought them to their senses, and they clutched their spears in the relative safety of the bulwark they forged with their shields. As the enemy horde was within arms length, they drew their shields back, then sent their spears into the chests of the enemy line. As the blades were removed from their bodies, blood, organs, and the occasional bone came out with them. Stepping back, the romans pulled their shields close together again, at the centurions order. They readied their spears once more, hoping the same trick will work again. The barbarians ran over the bodies of their comrades, blinded by their own bloodlust. So blinded, that they did fall for the same trick twice. Once more, spears in, guts out. The bodies, stained with blood as well as the filth that had already caked their bodies formed two neat rows in front of the line. At this point, the horde became aware of the fact that they had lost almost double their foe’s forces and decided to think a bit more than they were previously. The one who signaled their charge, seemingly the ringleader, pointed to the romans at their right, next to the wall. They refocused their effort on that single area, hoping to collapse a single area and punch straight through, in a wedge formation. And so, the might of a barbarian army came crashing down upon the heads of the romans. However, it was me with fierce resistance. When the mob shifted to focus it’s efforts on a single position on the roman line, this gave their adversary a chance they couldn’t afford to miss. They maneuvered the line to make a slant of sorts, and met the wedge. Not expecting to be met with anything but panic, the horde didn’t even see it coming. 100 spears went into 100 necks, and blood spurted out of each emptying body. Despite this move, however, the barbarian ringleader was capable of more than any roman expected. That is, strategy. He knew that the romans would take advantage of their movements, and prepared another group of 50 units to rush upon a single troop on the far right of the enemy line, as he was retracting his spear. 5 grab his spear before it retracts, and pulls with their might. The roman soldiers may not be slouches, but they cannot stand the force of 5 men. His spear is ripped out of his hands, he reaches for the gladius at his belt, but he makes a mistake in his movements. He doesn’t draw his shield back out. His arm is lopped off by a bruiser of a man, and then his heart meets the crude metal he wields as a sword. With an open gap, the 50 men charge through, and the wall comes crashing down. Order is lost, as the next to fall is the centurion, and there is mass panic among the remaining 98. That number is quickly reduced, as many try to escape, only to be cut down. A veteran soldier manages to get together a small group of 30 men into a circular formation. All those outside of this small circle, butchered before their eyes, while barely managing to cling on to their own lives. The youth stands next to his elder. Somehow, he maintained his nerve, and stayed to fight and die with his brothers. They send their spears forth, reaching for any enemy left open, killing each they come across. Yet, however many they kill, they know there is only more coming. A sea of filth bashes against the last of the enemy line. The old soldier makes a quick glance to the young man, then to his left side. The enemy is still focused on the group, and they haven’t full circled around yet. The boy realizes what he has to do immediately. He makes one last look to the tired man before him, weary from his battles fought without end, wishing for rest. He says a final word of thanks, then bolts, dropping his spear as he goes. The line closes together to make up for the one who ran. A final yell rings out from the wall, and it lashes out for its last time. The boy continues running, running, running. The last living reminder to his brothers gone.